Saturday, September 29, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 29, 2018

My time: 19:19.

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Whew, David Steinberg gave me a mental workout with this one.  I still solved it in under my average Saturday time, but only because many of my early times were so long.  A themeless split by black squares roughly into five sections --- four blocks, one in each corner, plus a sort-of rectangle across the center --- it contains some difficult and unusual fill.

I was particularly impressed with the long Downs DEAR SIR OR MADAM ("formal opening") and THE EMERALD ISLE ("green land"), but it's the vague cluing that gave this one its edge.  For example, "level" can be so many things, but it's ECHELON.  Tough word, tough clue.  Another one like that is "not forward" for SHY (I put *AFT).

Right off the bat "balaclava, for one," had me mistakenly thinking of the Greek dessert (spelled differently), but it's KNIT CAP.  Unfortunately, I put *KNIT HAT.  That slowed me down a bit at the northwest block.

"Invasive plant" is a clever clue, but I put *BUG, and it's supposed to be *SPY.  I like my answer better.

NO SHADE is the "modern lingo" clue.

SEA MOSS is an "algae touted as a superfood"?  This superfood craze has gone too far!

I've heard of a bánh mi, but not a bánh TET, a Vietnamese savory cake made from glutinous rice and filled with bean and pork.  Yum!

The term BIOMASS just refers to any energy that comes from animal or plant resources that can be transmuted into fuel.  Like sea moss!

I didn't know that ODWALLA is owned by the Coca-Cola Corporation.  It was purchased in 2001.  It is now a separate business unit of Minute Maid, Coke's juice division.

"Major Tuscan import" is CHIANTI.  This wine last appeared in the puzzle on October 30, 2017.

Did you know a group of ELK is called a gang?  Thus the tricky clue "gang members."

Never heard of PENN'S Landing, a tourist-friendly area of Philadelphia along the Delaware River.

A SPINNAKER is a three-cornered sail, also called a kite or chute, that is used when the wind is blowing across the course the boat is being steered.

I got too clever for my own good and put *RAT for "turn," thinking as in being a turn coat, but it's ROT, like turn bad.

Wiz Khalifa and 2 Chainz are in my mental encyclopedia, but the sum total of their mental entries reads "rappers," so I had no idea what their 2013 hit is.  It's WE OWN IT.  It's from the film Fast & Furious 6.  It seems to be a lot of yelling.

The Boston Marathon is held in APRIL.  Now that I know that, what do I do?

America's deepest gorge is Hells Canyon, a ten-mile wide canyon that is 7,990 feet deep, carved out by the Snake River in IDAHO and Oregon.  This appeared as recently as July 5, but I forgot.

Clever clues: "Like idol worshipers" is STARSTRUCK --- I was leaning toward heathens or something.  'Daring way to go" is ROGUE.  "Where models are assembled?" is CAR LOTS.  "Back slap?" is SPANK.  "Go through a voice change?" is YODEL.

This crossword was no HOT MESS.  It was touch and well constructed!  I was definitely not saying IS THAT ALL? after I finished.

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Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 2, 2020

My time: 23:35 , not great but still faster than average. Theme: dropping the final "g" of well-known phrases, moving the "g&...